Hanging in the Balance: Florida’s 1.5 Million Felons and Voting Rights
Back in February, a Federal judge ruled that the system that bans felon from voting in Florida was unconstitutional. This announcement came just weeks after a group named Floridians for a Fair Democracy met the required number of signatures to include a re-enfranchisement provision on the upcoming 2018 ballot. The Second Chance” initiative – promising to restore voting rights – garnered the nearly 760,000 signatures needed. With Florida accounting for 27% of all nationally disenfranchised (equal to 1.5 million individuals being ineligible to vote), both the ruling and the ballot initiative were celebrated among supporters of holistic reintegration and post-sentence transitions. Come Fall, residents of the Sunshine State will have a big choice to make, one that will have a profound impact on future elections and serve as a litmus for the health of our democratic resilience.
We at the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana (JAC) are excited to see progress be made on any front that reintegrates formerly incarcerated people back into society. Civic participation is at the cornerstone of American political values. Any policy that restricts or blocks access to voting is an all-out attack on the basic principles of self-governance and free speech. We believe that no one rational argument can be made for the lifetime restriction of voting rights for anybody, regardless of criminal conviction. We look to the upcoming elections to be a sign of future developments on the matter and hope that Florida voters will decide that re-enfranchisement is in the interest of the collective citizenry. While Louisiana is not among those states that restricts access to voting in the post-sentence phase, over 100,000 people currently do not have the right to vote. JAC aims to align itself with organizations working to expand voting rights to the thousands of parolees and probationers that are currently prevented from taking line on election day.
For more information on the current debate, the Brennan Center for Justice offers a publication detailing the debate and the impact of Florida’s prohibition on voting: